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Tascam DR-40 Audio Recorder Gets Update, Competes with Zoom H4n at Fraction of the Cost

03.1.12 @ 9:34AM Tags : , , , , ,

Tascam is nipping at the heels of the Zoom H4n with its new firmware update for the Tascam DR-40.  If you’re not too familiar with the Tascam DR-40, here’s the recap – it’s one of the smallest flash audio recorders with XLR inputs, has most of the basic functions run-and-gun filmmakers want, and runs you roughly $130 cheaper than the H4n.  With the new firmware update it also eliminates one of its biggest disadvantages – setting independent gains on the two XLR inputs.  Why is that important?  Find out after the jump:

As Tascam notes:

The new update allows independent control over the two input levels, so you can match up different microphones.

This means that if you are recording from a lavalier and a mic on a boompole you can set each mic’s gain at a different level.  That’s pretty handy considering the lavalier and shotgun mic may be picking up completely different sounds or the same sound from different distances.  It’s also handy if you have two mics on different actors and one actor is shouting his lines while the other actor is reacting in whispers.

In November of 2010 Zoom released a similar firmware update to the H4n that allowed for the same functionality:

And with this update Tascam bridges the gap.  For folks considering whether to buy the DR-40 vs the H4n, this update along with the $100+ price difference may just tip some over to the DR-40.

For the firmware update click here; we will be getting our hands on the Tascam unit here at NoFilmSchool and will have a full review comparing it to the Zoom H4n. To be fair, the Tascam DR-100 MkII is a more direct competitor to the H4n; we’ll try to test both and share the results. Anyone out there have any Tascam reports of their own?

[via CheesyCam]


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Description image 25 COMMENTS

  • Finally I can have better audio!

  • Was about to buy an H4n to replace my H2, will put that off now in anticipation of your review. Look forward to reading the results.

  • Rev. Benjamin on 03.1.12 @ 10:18AM

    Another interesting tidbit concerning price – stepping down, the Zoom h2 is $140. So for $20 more, you get a far more robust recorder from Tascam WITH xlr. The h2 recorder seems to have no purpose now, and should go to the audio retirement home.

  • Great article…I miss these. I’m low-end (at the moment) and most of these recent produce reviews have been way over my pay grade lol…

    • I agree with Idol-Maker, too many of the dslr video blogs only review products waaaay out of my league. Very few even mention a good video camera like the Panasonic GH2. It’s quite discouraging for somebody trying to get started dslr video.

  • I owns the Tascam DR-40. I will update it with this firmware.

  • I just received the DR-40 about two weeks ago, and this is welcome news! Having used the H4n a number of times in the past, I do feel DR-40 is actually a bit more friendly, and the audio quality sounds extremely good to me.

  • I’ve been reading that the DR-40′s audio is a little hissy. Has anyone experienced this problem? I’m considering buying one but I don’t want to be disappointed with noisy audio.

    • I have tried the DR-40 and was very disappointed at the amount of hiss from the pre amps. If you’re recording a line level feed from a mixer with loud music, it might be fine, but I do audio for films and unfortunately it is unusable. I even tried a second unit and it was the same way. I upgraded to a Marantz PMD 661 and I’m very happy with it. There’s a price difference though; it’s $600. Hope this helps.

      • @SteveS – I will double on that. The external microphone preamps on the dr40 are really noisy. And if you crank up the gain a little bit more, you get weird helicopter type of sounds(digital interference on the analogue line?). The only way to use the inputs is by connecting an external mixer and sending line level signal to the dr40. Connecting external microphones directly to dr40 in anything but the loudest environments is not really an option.
        On the other hand the internal microphones are pretty ok, you don’t get any of the weird noises. They are a bit on the bright side, but perfectly usable.

  • Is the tascam dr-100 also getting a firmware upgrade or is this something it has already been able to do?

    • @ Reuben: The TASCAM DR-100 has independent record level controls for the left and right channel so you’re covered with this unit. There’s also a gain control (low, medium, high) on the back of the unit, but that controls both channels and independently.

      I LOVE my TASCAM DR-100 Pro and it does everything I need it to do. If you decide to get something in this price range consider the just released TASCAM DR-100 Pro Mark II. There are some beefed up things, but most notably is the locking XLR ports which my unit doesn’t have (the only downside).

  • John Jeffreys on 03.1.12 @ 3:44PM

    I got an h4n on impulse, more or less, and it has been the most useful piece of equipment ever. its a swiss army knife. I record voice overs with it, i record soundtracks for my short films with it, its a great field mixer/sound recorder for shooting, its a metronome, audio meter, 4 channel recording, and the audio is so clean and crisp when you use it right.

    i strongly recommend you save up the extra money and get one, it is a MUST for every serious independent digital artist’s toolkit

  • Is anyone making a cheap fuzzy windscreen for the DR-40 yet?

  • After owning the H4n for a few years, I can’t wait to move up to a higher quality recorder. This doesn’t strike me as it. My sights are set on a Marantz PMD-661, possibly with an Oade Bros. upgrade as a minimum field recorder. You do your films a total disservice by recording video on $2500 DSLRs with multi-thousand dollar lens kits while recording audio with a sub-$300 mic and/or recorder.

    • Which of those PMD-661 Oade Bros upgrades is best for shooting video? They seem very audio focused.

  • Does Tascam need a 25db accentuator to work on 5DII?? Also anyone know – I have a Go Pro HD as well and they can’t tell me what the db need is. Was going to by H4n today as there is a special with a good dead kitten and the db Y cable in a kit.

  • FInally some post about a gear on the low end of budgets. For a blog called nofilmschool things were getting pretty out of reach lately. DOn’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to know the highest end because that’s where we want to arrive, but without losing touch from reality. Great post.

  • I was under the impression that the DR-100 was more directly competitive with the H4N?

  • i am interested in buying a DR-40. I contacted Tascam and asked if the firmware fixed the noise issue.
    Their support said “Usually noise is introduced when you record from the external inputs and only use one of the inputs. The noise is generated by the external input that is not being used. The latest firmware update allows you to silence the external input not being used in the 4 channel recording.”

    Can anyone that owns a DR-40 with the new firmware confirm if this is true?

    • @Daniel. I’ve got the latest firmware and the thing is that either of the external preamps generate weird noises unless the gain is all the way down or you have a balanced source connected to the input(either XLR or TRS). If you connect unbalanced mics, you still get the weird noise, you won’t get things like audiotechnica atr35 to work with the dr40 without noise issues.

    • New firmware for DR-40 is helpless for the helicopter noise. Try this: while recording with an external mike in mono mode hit the menu button. The recording screen disappears also the noise. You keep recording with a clear sound. Hit the menu button again the helicopter is back with the recording screen This is a software issue. Contact Tascam which I have. More the contacts hoping quicker firmware development from Tascam.

  • Might be helpful to have the update process in a video for the actual DR-40 device on here, not just the ZOOM H4n.